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Diamonds And Zirconia
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( Orginally published November 1937 )
The average modern, who scorns all things not tangible and concrete, almost always thinks first of diamonds when he is looking at gems with a view to purchasing. In a sense this is well, for the diamond is generally believed to be an adaptable stone; it rarely brings ill will to its wearer, and often does not bring much good, unless one's temperament happens to be attuned to the stone. It does give a feeling of "possession" and, to those individuals who care for that sort of thing, a sense of social position.
It is strange, considering the present popularity of the diamond, to find that comparatively few legends have grown up about this valuable stone. However, it is only in modern times that people have been able to admire the diamond as we know it today, a stone remarkable for its clear brilliance. As found in the ground, it was usually a cloudy stone covered with a dull crust which prevented its true beauty from being seen. Sometimes a smooth side would show the transparency of the stone. The diamond was valued mostly for its hardness and its resistance to fire and acid. But the ancients confused hardness with toughness, and long believed that if the stone could be crushed, it was not a genuine diamond. Undoubtedly many fine stones were destroyed when put to such a test.
The Hindu lapidaries found that the powder of such crushed stones would polish the sides of the diamond. For a long time, however, only the regular sides were polished. The dull exterior covering was removed, but the original shape of the stone was preserved. Few stones were so regular in shape that the brilliance could be revealed. When facet cutting was first introduced, gem lovers disapproved of the custom, believing it a trick to cover flaws within the stone.
The art of cutting the diamond into regular facets to increase the play of light against many surfaces was discovered in 1456 by :DP Berghem, a lapidary of Bruges. He used for his experiments three diamonds belonging to Charles the Bold, Duke of Burgundy. One stone was the Beau Sancy, another became the property of Pope Sixtus V, and the third was given by Charles of Burgundy to Louis XI.
Perhaps the most famous diamond known is the Koh-i-noor, or Mountain of Light, which came into the treasury of Delhi in 1304, though Hindu legend states that it had been known for four thousand years before that date. When it was offered as a tribute after the battle of Panpat, it was valued at one-half the daily expense of the world. The Koh-i-noor was taken to London in 1650 aixd cut and polished in 1862. With it came the legend that Diamond the stone was disastrous if owned by a inan. Whether or not Queen Victoria was superstitious, the fact remains that she bequeathed the Koh-i-noor, not to her son who would succeed her on the throne, but to his queen; and stipulated that the gem was to descend to those who became the royal consorts of England's kings.
In many countries the diamond was not so highly valued as rock crystal or white sapphire. Very large diamonds were believed to bring disaster to the owner. To have any beneficent effect as a talisman, the diamond should be given freely as a gift, with nothing expected in return. Legend says that it should not be sold or borrowed, and on no account should it be coveted, as envy of a diamond in another's possession is certain to bring bad luck. Diamonds which have been stolen are believed always to bring disaster to the thief and to anyone who knowingly wears the stolen stones.
Legend has also attached dire consequences to the wearing of diamonds as buttons on women's clothing, the tradition being that, the wearer thus courts violent death. When Tsar Nicholas II and his family met death at Tsarskoe Selo, the daughters were said to have been wearing their most valuable diamonds covered with cloth and sewed into their clothing as buttons.
A Roman tradition is responsible for the diamond being so generally chosen as an engagement ring. It was held to promote harmony when given by a lover to his promised wife, and as believed of other gems, to guard health, and vitality if worn on the left hand. In medieval times it was known as the emblem of reconciliation when given as a free gift.
To those highly evolved persons on what the Theosophists call the power ray, the diamond acts as a focusing point to bring more power to the one wearing it. There is a prevailing theory that the real power-ray person should wear a diamond almost blue-white in tint, or a very pale violet, as this is the hue of the first ray proper. A diamond of this shade, however, is as rare as the real power-ray individual.
A stone which the amateur is likely to confuse with the diamond is the white zircon, or j argoon, as it is known among gem dealers. Because in early times stones were distinguished by color, various shades of the zircon were known as jacinth, hyacinth, and jargoon. Facet-cut white sapphires, white aquamarines, and rock crystal are sometimes mistaken for diamonds also, but in the bazaars of the Orient it is usually the white zircon which is offered the unwary buyer. Often it is so delicately tinted and brilliantly cut that its fire resembles to a confusing degree that of the harder and more valuable stone.
In ancient times the zircon was regarded as a stone with potent magic to counteract malign influences and evil spirits. It was believed to be an antidote against poison, to aid digestion, and to heal open wounds if held against them. As a "cool" stone, it was used to reduce fevers. Also it was highly valued as an amulet against the plague of the Black Death which ravaged Europe in the fourteenth century.
To the various shades of the zircon, ranging from the reds and yellows through the grays, browns, and greens, strange legends have been attached. The j acinth and hyacinth are believed to dispel suspicion and jealousy, and to protect travelers against theft and epidemics, especially the plague. As late as the end of the seventeenth century the jacinth was considered to have magic to overcome fever. In India today the jargoon is sold as a stone which protects the wearer from poison and evil spirits. If set in gold, the zircon is held to have greater potency as an amulet. It is supposed to be valuable to all persons except those born under the signs of Taurus and Scorpio.